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Check your Dance Card… Part 2 “getting closer”

Dance with me?


In part one of “Check your Dance Card” we discussed a few items to take a look at before we enter the fire building and start our dance with the “beauty of fire.”  In part 2, we will discuss a few more specifics that we should note as we enter the structure.  Make no mistake, a constant review of this Dance Card is a must for all members… take mental notes of what you see.  You’re going to want to come home from your latest “dance” and tell all your friends all about this “beauty.”

“Ok, let’s move” the boss said, after what seemed like an eternity to you.  The reality, it was only mere seconds.  We all know that reality is often suspended when you are out on the dimly lit dance floor.  You, you’re an eager beaver, and chomping at the bit to get on with this next .  Your Officer is more cautious; he’s been burned by this “beauty” before.  He remembers the sting of her touch, especially if you are caught moving too quickly on the dance floor.  He is trying to show you the patience required, but you are still rather wet behind the ears and excitable…

This “beauty of fire” doesn’t make it easy; she beckons you closer with her dancing flames and warm lustrous glow.  Again, the Officer reels you back in…one more review before we hit the dance floor.

As you enter the fire building…


Generally we have 2 types of tread design (on the staircase steps) and 2 types of staircases. They are either “Open” (having no sides, walls or doors at the top or bottom) or “Enclosed” (having sides, walls and doors at the top and bottom).  Open tread and open staircases allow the passage of smoke, heat and fire to the floors above and are not friendly to our operation.  Enclosed steps and enclosed staircases reduce the chances of fire spread in the building (if the doors are to remain in the closed position).  It may be wise to announce the style and type of stairs to other units as they arrive, so that they know what to expect.  This is of particular importance when in larger multiple dwellings or garden apartments and there are isolated, wing, or multiple staircases that serve specific lines of apartments (i.e. do not transverse the entire building).  “Ladder X to Command; we have enclosed wing stairs, we will be using the A wing stairs to reach the fire apartment.”



The presence of a “Well Hole” the space created between the landing section of the stairs and the run of the steps themselves can be utilized for quick hoseline advancement.  It must be rehearsed prior with the Engine Co. to achieve maximum effect.  It reduces the amount of hose needed to be humped up the treads of the steps and around each newel post (i.e. 1-50’ length can travel vertically 5 floors in the well versus 1 length per floor if going up and around each set of steps, newel posts and associated landings).  “Engine 22 to members, there is a well” should be enough to let the members know.



A quick stop on the floor below can get you a lay of the land.  If you bypassed the lobby and forgot to count mailboxes, count the number and note location of the apartments that you see.  Remember that depending of the way the stairs run (scissor, return etc), they may be slight variations in the layout when you get on the fire floor.



What may have appeared to be a fire on the 3rd floor from the street may turn out to on the second floor depending on the buildings configuration as it relates to the street level. Some buildings have lobby entrances that are raised above street level, which may change your initial fire floor notifications.  Verify the fire floor and announce the apartment number or letter over the air, so that those who may be going above can pinpoint the direction they need to head.

Open Tread and Open Stairs

Well Hole

Enclosed Stairs

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Company News, Engine Company, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 22-02-2012

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Got Stickers?

Got Stickers?


Firefighters, absolutely love stickers and decals.  I know that you know what I am talking about, and… it’s ok.  It is absolutely fine to be proud of who you are as a firefighter, be you a career or volunteer member.  You should be proud of your fire company and your fire department. Affixing decals and stickers to your personal property is just one way for you to show that pride to others.  I’ve seen fire department decals not only on personal vehicles, but boats, golf clubs, I’ve even seen decals on coolers… and so on and so on.
I’ve also seen some sort of decal on almost every rig I have come across.  Some are big, some are small but they mean something to the members who put them there.  I’ve seen decals with company slogans and nicknames, department mascots, company patches, memorial decals, the stickers run the gamut.  While they all serve as reminders to the members, either in memory or to elicit a source of pride, but in aiding our functionality for fireground, eh…well the decals are really just for show.
Recently, I have taken notice of a few stickers and decals on rigs and placed on certain tools that are absolutely excellently placed for OUR increased safety, and will aid our operations on the fireground.  Now, I will certainly not take credit for inventing any of them, I’m just not that smart.  I just thought that they were great ideas and they can be incorporated into most companies and departments quickly, easily and relatively inexpensively.  A sticker, believe it or not may just save a life!
Take a good look at the lead picture above and those below, courtesy of my friend Joe Brown from firehouse pride (www.firehousepride.com).  Ladder and tool wraps can greatly increase visibility of such important landmarks on the fireground.  Also, they are great identifiers for your tools and equipment.
Another useful sticker found on fire apparatus that I have seen is this RIT/FAST one.  In reality the sticker isn’t for your members, they should know where all the equipment is on your rig… its is for everyone else!  You never know when an additions compliment of RIT/FAST supplies may be needed at an incident.  With this decals placement, there is no need to “compartment hunt” looking for the RIT/FAST pack or associated RIT/FAST tools.

Label your RIT/FAST compartment

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills, training-development, Truck Company, Uncategorized | Posted on 14-02-2012

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New UL Study Reinforces Sound Old Fire Tactics

I can be a pretty skeptical guy when it comes to new studies and ideas in the fire service.  That’s because it seems that lately our profession tries to solve “hands-on problems” with fancy new catch-phrases rather than firefighting skill.  So when I read and watched the recently released “Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction” released by Underwriter’s Laboratories I was on watch for what “zany solution” they were going to have for our “modern fire problem”.  I was pleasantly surprised.

The study was released in December 2010 and I’ve heard quite a bit about it in the background of the fire service.  This study has been referenced in a lot of circles recently.  One “fire chief” tried to even use it to say we shouldn’t fight fires interior anymore (he must’ve not read the same piece I read).  Not wanting to remain uninformed, I took a look…  For all those who don’t like reading 400 page reports, I suffered for you.  And here’s the FIREMAN’s version:


The study compared a series of residential fires in a 50’s-60’s construction style 1-story house of 1,200 square feet with a “modern” 3,200 square foot 2 story house.   These are those new houses we hear about being so different in “today’s fires”, referenced by many who advocate we completely change our approach to firefighting.

Now I was not one of the scientists on the study, but I did look at it fairly closely and here are my take home thoughts on what it means for fighting fires in “today’s fires”:

  1. Coordinate ventilation with hoseline advancement, including forcing doors that feed the fire area.
  2. Get a hoseline on the seat of the fire quick.
  3. VES is a great technique.
  4. Closing interior doors saves civilians and firefighters.
  5. No smoke showing means NOTHING.

That’s it?  Yeah – pretty much, at least from my perspective.  Now there’s a lot of “why” that supports those conclusions.  But what shocked me there is – did you hear anything NEW?  I didn’t.  No new safety vests, no blitz-fires, no buzz terms.  Coordinate engine & truck work, get a line in place fast, and use good techniques to isolate and rescue.  Sounds like the same things the “old school” fire service has preached for decades!

So what’s the problem?

The problem is the same thing I started this article with:  these days we’d rather get a new colored vest, or practice taking blood pressures, or use some fancy multi-syllable phrase than do what this study supports:  GET GOOD AT OFFENSIVE FIREFIGHTING.  What do I mean?  Here are some buzz-words I think we ought to be practicing, and this fancy 400-page study supports:

–  “Running Hoselines” – that’s a geographical term in my area for stretching and operating interior attack lines.  How often to your firefighters pull lines?  I’d bet you many firefighters haven’t pulled a line off in a “non-parking-lot” scenario in the past year.  THAT’S A BREAD & BUTTER SKILL!  Do they just know the crossly or can they extend and adapt to various scenarios with the precision of a offensive football line under the 2-minute warning?  What is your fire department’s benchmark time for:  from arrival having to firefighters stretch a 1.75″ line to the front door and be masked up and ready to enter the fire area?  Based on a survey of YouTube I don’t think many departments have ANY such benchmark.  This study says you have between 100 and 200 seconds to get water on the fire after ventilation occurs.  That means you ventilating, or the fire ventilating the windows for you.  How good are your back up firefighters?  How well do you chase kinks?  Poor performance with either of those will drastically delay your fire attack and your flow.

You have 100-200 seconds after ventilation to put the fire out or suffer rapid fire growth.

–  “Coordinated Ventilation” – a concept that many departments struggle with.  This was a no-brainer “back in the day”.  We need to spend more time training on coordinating the location and timing of ventilation.  This study clearly showed the impact of ventilating in the wrong time or in the wrong place.  Ventilation should be timed with the knowledge that you only have 100-200 seconds after to get water on the fire before the fire will rapidly grow.  The best way we can do this is “run scenarios”.  Look at fire pictures with your crew.  Where would you ventilate? When? What would be the challenges?  How about coordinating with the line?  You can just wait and see what happens when you get a fire, or you can take a few minutes to TALK FIRE and PREPARE so you’ll KNOW what’s going to happen.

– “Vent, Enter, Search” – this study also clearly showed that these fires were survivable for civilians who were laying on the floor in just about every room of the house except for the fire room.  Closing the door made things even better.  Keeping this in mind, along with the rapid growth of fire if water is not supplied, further supports the efficiency of Vent, Enter, Search technique in rescuing civilians. Particularly where a larger square foot home delays searches done with the conventional “left right” patterns.  Some advocate it should be “Vent, Enter, Isolate, Search” – maybe, but when I first learned VES, and every time I’ve taught it, closing the door has ALWAYS been the first action after you enter.  Maybe some people were just teaching it wrong…

–  “Isolate and flow water” – In trouble?  Either get out, isolate yourself (close a door), or flow water.  This study supports the tenability of firefighters when we knock down fire with a hoseline or isolate ourselves from the fire until the fire is knocked or we can obtain an exit.

– “Nothing Showing Means Nothing” – Among others, I’ve said it for years.  Three of the worst fires of my career started out as “nothing showing”.  That’s when everyone let’s their guard down, doesn’t want to lay lines, leaves their tools behind, and moves slow.  When you have fire showing – you know its a fire.  When you have nothing showing – THE FIRE WILL CATCH YOU OFF GUARD.  This study reinforces that with our modern construction, it is quite likely that a good fire will show nothing to the outside until it is ventilated.  KEEP YOUR GUARD UP – IT’S THE FIRE OF YOUR CAREER UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE.

In Conclusion:

There’s a lot more to it than that, and if you’ve got about an hour the video on it is worth watching.  But the take home here is NOT that we need to re-invent the fire service.  It seems to me that often we’d rather float lofty ideas in the air conditioning then get out there and WORK at improving our bread & butter firefighting skills.  Not running much fire?  The need is even greater.  We need to go back to practicing the tried & true skills of coordinated engine/truck work, rapid hoseline advancement, and targeted search.  Stop creating fancy buzz terms and get out their and train.  Think fire, talk fire, run through scenarios.  Stay sharp.  Stay COMBAT READY.

Referenced Study information:

UL | Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in Legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction

Video Summary of Report (70 minutes)

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Engine Company, Truck Company | Posted on 29-11-2011

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Video Tip & Pics from Engine/Truck Ops Class in Iowa

Last weekend was busy for TT staff, running two simultaneous classes:  a 16-hr engine/truck operations class in Johnston, Iowa and a 8-hour engine company class in Ft. Washington, PA.  We had five instructors and about 40 students in each class.  Both hosting departments were repeat clients and we were happy to see some familiar enthusiastic faces and a lot of new faces from the outside attendees.


While getting some pics, I caught Danny Doyle giving a great tip on opening and breaching a wall.  This was completely off topic, as he was running a search-rope bag station, however that kind of “off topic” street-smart tips and tangents are the hallmark of Traditions Training classes.  While many classes just run “assembly line” skill stations, we make every effort to go out of our way and explain, why, how, alternatives, and the little details that make the difference.

Some photos from Johnston, IA:


Some photos from Ft. Washington, PA:

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Engine Company, Tips & Skills, Truck Company, videos | Posted on 02-07-2011

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HUD Window Thinking and Learning from Past Fires

The term HUD Window refers to the stereotypical wooden board up frequently seen on “vacant” buildings, damaged buildings, and occasionally buildings under construction. It’s not a standardized term – I’m sure there are many regional variations. Just as there are variations in the name, there are variations in the style, construction, and manner of installation. As with all things forcible entry, a “one plan” approach is likely to fail you when the unexpected is encountered.

While out doing some district familiarization and rookie training we stopped at this house, which was the site of a recent fire. How often do you go by the address of fire you ran last tour, or the fire that the other shift went to? Unfortunately, I’ve worked in places where nobody has any interest in visiting the fire we ran last tour, or that the other shifts ran on the days off.  That’s a terrible waste of resources.  Not only is there a fire with good things to discuss, but it’s a fire that ACTUALLY HAPPENED IN YOUR AREA!  Take a minute during the day to top by and see what went down.

In our area it would not be uncommon do go back to an address a second time due to arson or careless squatters.  In this case we were able to not only to learn what to expect, and how houses in this area are being secured, but also do some rookie training and talk as a group about different ideas.

Different ideas are exactly what you’ll need for these situations. When I posted a brief pic of this house on our Facebook page the other day we had no less than 5 ideas in a few minutes. Is this something you spend time talking with your crew about, or do you just watch SportCenter all day?

There are many ways to skin this cat, but here are a few of my initial thoughts:

– As you pull up at a fire, don’t blindly run up with the same tools. Look at what you have. For example, as the OV FF here I would be thinking about bringing a chainsaw due to multiple boarded up windows – that’s not a usual tool for me in that position.  I would make two cuts – one each as close to the outside of the frame as I could judge.

– I’d also consider a short ladder (10′ or less) to provide me with better access to these shoulder height windows (see this idea in use in Joe Brown’s OV video here).  These 2×4 braces were also nailed into the sides of the frames, that may limit the effectiveness of certain removal techniques.

– As the irons FF or officer, i might think to tell my OV to start right away on the windows as we head to the door. Given the lack of an outside 2×4 here, I think we can make a relief strike just below the bolt heads with the 8lbs axe and just drive the bolts through to make access to the front door.  Remember that YOU might have a plan and a thought, but the effectiveness of the entire CREW will improve if everyone knows it – COMMUNICATE.  Ideally, PLAN AHEAD.

Be prepared for surprises.  You may assume by the presence of the HUD coverings over the door area that there is no additional challenge, however a peak inside allowed us to see that the original security gate was still in place.  How strong is it?  Who knows, but worth being prepared for.

– Of course being the site of a previous fire, I have to consider the buildings stability. In our area, squatters and vagrants are a distinct likelihood so my intentions are to enter if at all possible.  That said, I’m paying extra attention to the floor’s stability as I move ahead.  I’m also thinking that overhaul from the previous fire has given the fire a head start into void spaces.

Additional Resources (thanks to our Facebook friends!):

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, Tips & Skills, Truck Company | Posted on 25-02-2011

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Helmet Cam Training Video: Removing Window Mounted AC Units During Ventilation

Here is the latest in our Voiceover Training Tips Video Series” straight from the fireground to your computer screen. In this video Traditions Training Instructor Joe Brown takes us through some of his thoughts and actions when approaching a window mounted air conditioning unit during ventilation. The fire is on the second floor of a 2-story brick end-of-the-row home, Joe is part of the Outside Vent Team on DCFD Truck 17 and his actions are in conjunction with the Interior Search Team and Suppression Teams. As you watch the video think about what your actions may have been and how they might vary with different building constructions in your District. Leave us some feedback and open some discussion at your firehouse kitchen table or computer screen. As always, stay safe out there.


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Posted by | Posted in Blog, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, Tips & Skills, Training Resources, training-development, Truck Company, videos | Posted on 26-01-2011

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"Standby to Copy…" – Making the Window a Door

Turning the “window into a door” is an important operational and safety concept that we preach every chance we get.  A few more seconds at the window can drastically increase ventilation and provide an egress point that will allow a firefighter to get himself out of trouble. In this edition of “Standby to Copy”, Chief Kelleher discusses the need to make the window into a door.

"how am I supposed to get out?"

“Standby to Copy” is an informal newsletter produced by TT instructor Chief Tony Kelleher of the Kentland VFD, providing operational tips to companies that operate in the Prince George’s County Fire Department.  While some of these tips reference things that are specific to the operations of PGFD companies, they share some great thoughts that are easily applied to any department.  They’re a great quick read and good for a conversation starter around the kitchen table.  As such, we’ll be cross-publishing these newsletters here for your enjoyment…

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, command-leadership, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, RIT / Survival, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 19-12-2010

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Watch Your Step on the Roof!

Nighttime operations on the rooftop have many inherent dangers.   With smoke perhaps even further reducing our visibility, we must use eve more caution.  This photo is of the top floor roof area between two rowhomes in DC.

Note the gap between the two houses.  Remember that while the fronts are often even, the backs are often staggered.  WATCH YOUR STEP.  Carry a big light, and have it on.  Check the area you’re about to step on with your hook BEFORE you commit your weight to it.

Remember – you can’t un-fall.

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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 17-12-2010

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Forget the Excuses – Just Get to the Roof!

Many initial operations depend on firefighters accessing the roof early in the incident.  Providing a report from the rear and sides, assessing lateral extension, opening natural openings and cutting a hole may all be potential tasks, but our first task is to GET TO THE ROOF.  The truck’s aerial is of course a preferable option and ground ladders are a close second – but what about if you can’t get either up?

This was the case at a fire on Kennedy St, NW in DC the other night.  First-in companies found fire in a church on the 1st floor of a 3-story occupancy.  The building sat about 20 feet back from the curb with power lines running along the curb.  These prevented use of the aerial, even though the truck was able to position right on side A.  Ground ladders would have been difficult because with the building’s height a 35 would have been unlikely to make the height and the 45 would have been unwieldy in the area of the wires and companies making the stretch through the front door.

Like many others, I too have seen people encountered with such a situation just give up – it’s easy to fall back on the explanation of why you didn’t do it.  But a COMBAT READY out-of-the-box-thinking fireman will forgo the excuses and just get the job DONE.  This was just the case for Truck 11’s tillerman, who quickly thought to use the adjoining building’s porch roof.   By quickly placing a 24′ ladder to the porch roof, the 14′ roof ladder was used to go from the porch to the fire building roof.  In hindsight it seems like a simple and obvious idea – but this kind of creativity is more difficult in the heat of the moment.  Pay attention to your buildings, plan for fires before you go to the fire, and think outside of the box!  (photos courtesy of D. Smith, DCFD T-11)


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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, Commentary, fire-rescue-topics, firefighting-operations, fires, news, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company | Posted on 13-12-2010

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Video-Tip: The 7-9-8 or "Coffin" Cut

In this video, we demonstrate a version of the 7-9-8 or “Coffin” cut.  This is an expandable cut designed for flat roofs.  One of it’s primary features is the ability to quickly double the hole’s size with only two additional cuts.  Check out the video and be sure to let us know your thoughts and experiences!


A couple quick tips for roof ventilation:

  • Plan your order of cuts so that you work back toward your exit.
  • Avoid standing on cuts.
  • Use the “tap” system to communicate with your partner (1-stop, 2-go, 3-shut down).
  • On flat roofs, control your saw but utilize the full depth of the blade to get through all the material on the first pass!
  • Overlap the intersections of cuts by at least 6″ so you don’t have to come back.
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Posted by | Posted in Blog, Combat Ready, fire-rescue-topics, firefighter-safety-health, firefighting-operations, Tips & Skills, training-development, training-fire-rescue-topics, Truck Company, videos | Posted on 20-10-2010